Why are you laughing?

I get laughed at a lot. Most days actually. And I’m fine with it for a couple of reasons;

1. I was gifted more than my share of self-confidence and I’m quite happy being the centre of attention. Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m somewhere between Muhammad Ali and Kanye West on the Narcissism Continuum, but I’m certainly not crippled by social anxiety.

2. I’m completely aware that I’m very different to everyone around me and that is humorous for some people. If my very presence can bring some amusement into someone’s day, I’m going to count that as a positive. Feast your eyes, friends, and giggle away.

3. I know that I mess things up all the time and the mistakes I make are pretty funny. My attempts at speaking Vietnamese alone are enough to send anyone into a paroxysm of laughter. And the time I slipped on a block of fallen silken tofu and fell into a basket of frogs at my local market would have looked hilarious to anyone watching and everyone was watching. (No frogs were injured and I’m sure they were gently released back into some lovely, clean waterways later that day).

4. I’ve lived in Viet Nam long enough to know that Vietnamese people are generally a jovial bunch and are as quick to laugh at themselves as they are at others. Can’t complain if I’m being treated the same as everyone else.

5. I’ve recently learned that the Vietnamese word for ‘smiling’ can be the same word as for ‘laughing.’ In English being ‘laughed at’ and being ‘smiled at’ convey very different experiences, but maybe if there is less distinction in the Vietnamese language, there is less distinction in the Vietnamese mindset. Being ‘laughed at’ in Vietnamese might be as tender and charming as being ‘smiled at’ in English.

6. I remember that some people are just arseholes that will laugh at you out of unkindness and I try not to let it break my stride. Arseholery is not specific to a nationality and you’ll meet unkind people wherever you go. Enter your favourite self-affirming quotes here.

7. I’m generally laughing at myself too.

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18 thoughts on “Why are you laughing?

  1. I love this!! As a fair skinned, blonde haired plus size woman, I fully expect the same when I arrive back in Vietnam!! When I last visited, I was of great interest, especiallyy wobbly thighs!!! But, all with fun in mind, and met some lovely people due to laughter!! I’m hoping my next extended visit will see it make some friendships too!! 🙂

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      1. I’ll be back in September until at least January, based in Hue! Can’t wait!! Giggles make any day a better day!!! 🙂

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      2. Hue is wonderful, such a lovely little city. You have everything you need there without having to be in a heaving metropolis like Ha Noi or Sai Gon. I love Hue food too, so gloopy (that is a compliment, I like the texture). You’ll have to learn Tieng Hue (Hue dialect) though and no one else in Viet Nam will understand you.

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      3. I’m so looking forward to it!! I loved uneven I visited before. Though I’m signature the dialect will be the problem for people trying to understand me!!!

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      4. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Hue dialect is difficult for Northern and Southern Vietnamese people to understand. Even I can pick the differences.
        But, you’ll be fine, I’m not worried about you at all.

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  2. I never gave much thought before to how “cười” can be used for both, with “nụ cười” and “tiếng cười” being more precise 🙂 Being able to laugh at yourself is a great trait to have!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny, but 100% true! In some part of Vietnam it’s still rare to see a foreigner, so of course it’s literally everyone was watching you. It doesn’t matter if you spoke perfect Vietnamese either. It’s not every day that they see a “Tay” speaking Vietnamese and so, it is amusing to them:)

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    1. Sometimes I find myself staring at foreigners too – I think it is natural for people’s eyes to follow that which stands out.
      Believe me – I don’t and never will speak perfect Vietnamese… if anything I’m losing English.

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      1. ‘Guess the nationality’ is one of my favourite games over coffee (because you’re sitting on the street and lots of people walk past.) I’m pretty good at picking the North Americans (so much North Face gear).

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Nice attitude. I’ve had the same thing in many countries, particularly where foreigners are rare – I’ve had whole markets full of African women laughing. Its important to remember it is rarely malicious, whenever i have been able to ask for an explanation or had someone to translate it’s always something harmless. Laughter is often a defence mechanism in awkward situations, maybe you’ve noticed yourself laughing when you don’t understand someone who speaks another language?

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    1. I don’t think the laughter is malicious, but I don’t do it myself. I generally make it my policy to smile reassuringly when someone is struggling to communicate with me through a language barrier; I don’t mind being laughed at but I don’t want to do to anyone else in case their feelings are hurt. I’m not saying that I haven’t been sorely tempted to laugh a couple of times in Viet Nam – I was talking to a girl during the Saigonese hot and humid season and she remarked, “Agghh, this weather is making me so wet.” I told her it would be better to say ‘sweat’ instead.

      The one time in recent memory that I could help but laugh was when I was talking to a Brazilian guy at a bar. I told him that I was Australian, amongst other things and his response was, “Oh, like a Donkey ate my Baby.” I thought I was going to wet my pants.

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      1. You don’t strike me as the kind of person who would laugh in a nasty way at some innocent stranger, i think laughter is universal enough to be able to convey amusement at the situation rather than offering offence – after all that is how we have taken it when directed at us. Keep on smiling (or laughing)

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      2. I remember sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a flight to yet another far flung destination; I didn’t really mind sitting there too much because I was so amused by these two four year olds chasing each other around the chairs and jumping out at each other. The children were laughing hysterically and their parents were smiling at their antics. One family was Chinese and the other French, I really doubt they would have known a common word between them, but they all understood laughter and how much fun it is to make a new friend. Those kids are kind of international travellers we should all strive to be.

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